Monthly Archives: May 2015

Love^3

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Love^3

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel with a love triangle. I had a really hard time trying to find one that interested me and was a bit different than what I normally read. I love that this challenge has really pushed my out of my reading comfort zone to try things I would never have picked up before. I’ve found out like I like science fiction and fantasy more than I used to think I did, I’m reading more classic novels, and I’m browsing sections of the library I’ve never been down. If nothing else, this Book Battle has been thoroughly enlightening and it’s been amazing to share it with all of you.

But, I digress. Back to the book. The novel I chose is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book centers on Tommy, Ruth, and Cathy as they go through Halisham, a private school in the English countryside. From the back cover, it sounds like this is going to be a coming of age story with a twist. I’ve heard that the twist is very good and I can’t wait to find out what it is. Many list the book as a science fiction/fantasy so I’m thinking the twist might have something to do with that. Apparently there’s also a movie with Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan. That is going to have to happen after I read this novel! How I wish Blockbuster was still a thing. Now we rely on Redbox and Netflix which just don’t have everything you want to watch.

Stay tuned for the review of Never Let Me Go. Happy reading!

Suddenly, Last Summer

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Suddenly, Last Summer

Suddenly, Last Summer is a play of predators and prey. Each circling the other trying to take stock of their surroundings and how best to play off and use the the other. The opening scene foreshadows perfectly how the rest of the play will unfold. In Sebastian Venable’s garden decorated with “massive tree flowers that suggest organs of a body, torn out, still glistening with undried blood.” Noises of screeching birds and hissing insects emanate form the garden, stirring up feelings of foreboding in the reader. That’s when we’re introduced to Mrs. Violet Venable, Sebastian’s mother. She’s talking to a Dr. Cukrowicz about a Miss Catherine Holly, the woman last seen with Sebastian before his death. Instead of taking his ill mother along on his travels, Sebastian took his cousin by marriage Catherine. While on vacation, Sebastian died mysteriously and Catherine has been spouting a damning story that Violet refuses to believe. She asks the doctor if a lobotomy will erase the story from her mind. He says that before he can decide he must interview Catherine and hear the story she has to tell.

This is when things get even hairier. The play is short but jam-packed with images and illusions. Nothing is quite as it seems and everything has a dual meaning. During Catherine’s story we learn a lot about cousin Sebastian and his mother that Violet would rather not have others know. Sebastian and his mother have a sort of Norma Norman Bates relationship. It’s symbiotic, each feeding off the other for something they need that’s definitely a tainted type of love. Even after his death, Violet wants to claim all of Sebastian and paints an image of him that she desires, no matter how truthful an image that is. She wants to believe he was a world class poet that did everything for his art. She’s created this image of Sebastian as more of a living art form than a mere human being.

Art plays a big part in the play. The art of deception and manipulation. In a way, Sebastian is devoured by his own art. He’s destroyed himself through his own ideas and proclivities. Sebastian uses those around him in whatever way suits him in the moment. He continually wants an entourage of adoring people around him but has a hard time acquiring them. That was what Catherine was for. She was there to acquire the people he wanted. She says in the play that Sebastian considered people to be treats. Some were delicious while other were vile.

I don’t want to spoil the play or the ending. This is a must read. It’s short but powerful. The scenes, just like the movie, will play around and around in your head while you try to piece together all of the images to form one cohesive whole. Just like Catherine is traumatized by the image of Sebastian’s death, I had a hard time putting the play out of my mind.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

Putting on a Show

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Putting on a Show

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a play. There was no second guessing for me this time. I knew the play I wanted to read as I read the category for the first time. I saw the movie for Suddenly, Last Summer when I was in high school. My mom got me hooked on classic movies from an early age. I remember staying up late at night watching TCM with her. This movie, in particular, has always stuck with me because it was so jarring. It terrified me in a way, much like The Innocents based on Henry James’s short story The Turn of the Screw. The movie was so psychologically unnerving, dealing with the thin line between reality and fantasy, keeping you on the edge of your seat. I have the image of Elizabeth Taylor screaming as birds fly by on this white hot strip of asphalt forever stuck in my head. As well as Katherine Hepburn wheeling a wheelchair through a lush tropical garden.

It’s because I remember scenes from this movie so vividly that I decided to read the play. The fact that Tennessee Williams is one of the greatest playwrights of his generation is definitely an added bonus. Stay tuned to see how the movie stacks up to the play. Happy reading!

The 19th Wife

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The 19th Wife

When I first picked out this book I had no idea how hard it would be to write a review of. While this book is a fiction work, it is based on a true story of the Mormon church and Ann Eliza Young’s marriage to Brigham Young and then her apostasy. Ebershoff said in his acknowledgements page that he did fill in a lot of gaps in the story with his own fictional elements but that much of it, the Ann Eliza Young section, is based on her memoir Wife No. 19. 

The novel is told in many different narrative styles and voices from an academic scholar’s paper, letters, diary entries, and even a Wikipedia page. I thought that adding so many different elements really spiced up the narrative and kept me thoroughly enticed. Not knowing very much about the Mormon church and it’s foundations, I found this book fascinating. Looking at a religions origins and how different people built it up to what we know it as today is captivating. Ebershoff does a wonderful job of taking each character and transporting them into his fictional world. Each characters has such a powerful and distinct voice, based largely on the author’s extensive research.

At the time this book came out it was extremely topical. A year before the novel was published the YFZ, or Yearning for Zion, Ranch was raided after the authorities received a call from a 16 year old girl claiming physical and sexual abuse. This ranch, run by the Jeffs, who are now imprisoned, was much like the Firsts in Ebershoffs novel. They were an off shoot of the Mormon church who left to pursue what they consider true Mormonism as preached by Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, mainly polygamy. In the novel, the Firsts broke off of the Mormon church in 1890 after anti-polygamy laws were passed. They believed that true Mormonism must include polygamy since it was passed down from the Prophet. Many believed that if this edict could be changed what else about the Mormon faith could be edited?

In the present day sections of the novel, Jordan Scott represents one of the Firsts who was excommunicated for holding a girls hand. He was banned from coming back and dropped on the highway to fend for himself. After Jordan hears that his mother is on trial for shooting his father, he travels back to Utah, a place he thought he would never see again, to find out if she did it or not. What ensues is an amazing battle of belief and truth, intertwined with Ann Eliza Young’s experiences as a plural wife.

The novel does an amazing job of exploring the tenacity of belief and the lengths people will go to retain and uphold their belief system. It poses many questions about the mysteries of faith and how it can both uplift and corrupt. For anyone interested in religions, heretics, and origins this is the novel for you.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

Crunching the Numbers

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Crunching the Numbers

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book with a number in the title. I was originally going to read a different book for this category but when I was in the library this book caught my eye. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a novel with a dual narrative about the origins of the Mormon religion and a current day Mormon sect in Utah. I’ve heard about this book before and it comes highly recommended by a good friend of mine and her aunt, who has spectacular taste in novels. I couldn’t resist. I picked it up immediately and checked it out.

I’m very interested to hear more about the dual narratives and how they are going to connect. From the back cover, the story is going to center around Brigham Young’s 19th wife, Ann Eliza Young, and the 19th wife in the current Mormon sect who supposedly shot her husband. The wife in the present day part of the book has a son who was excommunicated who comes back into contact with the sect in order to prove her mother’s innocence and find out what happened to his father. Did she or didn’t she? Wait for the review to find out!

Happy reading!

The Little Sister

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The Little Sister

“The play was over. I was sitting in an empty theater. The curtain was down and projected on it dimly I could see the action. But already some of the actors were getting vague and unreal.”

Chandler writes about the detective and his city as opposed to detection as many classic mystery novelists. Marlowe’s city is Los Angeles, a place where dreams are made and broken. This quote really hit me from The Little Sister. To me it sums of the ambivalence of Los Angeles, especially in comparison to other cities. Everything has a tinge of the unreal. Everyone is an actor and everywhere is a stage. It’s hard to tell where reality and fiction cross and intertwine. Life is a movie set with a script that is rarely deviated from. This theme resonates throughout the novel. Many characters comment on casting of characters in the novel and lines they feel they must say. For example, when Mavis Weld, one of the main female characters in the novel and an actress, is talking to Marlowe she says: “I can’t think of any lines tonight.” And Marlowe replies, “It’s the technicolor dialogue.” Meaning this is real life, not a movie set. The line has been blurred and crossed and Mavis Weld wasn’t even aware of it. She can’t rely on a script to keep her steady.

This novel doesn’t have as much plot as some of the other Marlowe mysteries, instead focusing more on Marlowe himself, his relationships, and his relationship to the city he loves and hates. Marlowe is particularly down in this novel looking for connection in all the wrong places. One thing I’ve always loved about this detective is he doesn’t solve mysteries because of his superior intellect. He manages to solve cases through dogged determination.

All of Chandler’s characters have this kind of determination in one way or another. They live hard and die hard. They live wildly and eventually must pay the price. There isn’t much sunshine in Marlowe’s world. The Little Sister plays up the trope of the femme fatale more than any other Chandler novel I’ve read thus far. The women in this novel as in charge. They are the puppeteers pulling the strings. They hold the power and remain in the background to play their scenes.

I’m not going to give away the reveal, it’s pretty darn awesome, but will say you won’t be disappointed. The Little Sister is a novel about the underbelly of society and the blurring of lines. There are gangsters, Hollywood screen sirens, and down on their luck cops. Marlowe doesn’t set the world to rights and find the sun, but he does wait around for the finale.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday

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Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, is the top ten authors you’d love to meet. I’ve had the chance to meet a few authors and, let me tell you, it’s kind of terrifying and nerve wracking. It’s also exhilarating meeting the person who’s brain spawned something you love but it’s so hard trying to talk intelligently when all you want to say is, “I love you so much.” But for this weeks theme I’m going to hold it together. Without further ado, these are the authors I would love to meet (on some plane):

1. Jane Austen

First of all I think Jane Austen would be hilarious in real life just like she is in her books. I love some irony and sarcasm. I would also love to ask her what she thinks of all of these Pride and Prejudice spin off books.

2. Daphne du Maurier

This is one of the authors I would be most intimidated to meet. She’s such an amazing talent I don’t know if I could even form words. I’ve read so many of her novels and watched the movie adaptations I would love to just listen to her talk and see how her brain works.

3. Raymond Chandler

Another author I would be really intimated to meet. Chandler’s writing style is, to me, perfection. He can write a sentence with a bang like no one else.

4. Nova Ren Suma

One of the authors I’ve just recently discovered, Nova Ren Suma is absolutely amazing. Her writing is so lyrical and just immerses you in a wave of words. I would love to talk to her about writing technique and how to craft the perfect YA novel.

5. Joan Didion

This lady saw so many amazing events in her life. I would love to talk to her about the time she spent in the Haight in the 60s and what the experience was like.

6. R.L. Stine/Christopher Pike

Once again I group these two together because in my childhood I loved them like the same person. I would love to talk to them together about their writing styles and if there ever was any competition between the two in their chosen genres. I also want to know how they’re able to produce such a large body of work.

7. Oscar Wilde

This is one author who knew how to live it up. I think that if you met him in real life he would just be a crack up and charm you with his wit and intelligence.

8. Truman Capote

I would love to meet the mind that spawned such masterpieces as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. He was truly one of the best literary voices of his generation.

9. Tana French

Her Dublin murder squad series just keeps getting better. Each novel has kept me on the edge of my seat. I would love to find out what her inspirations are.

10. Agatha Christie

Last, but certainly not least, I would love to meet the queen of all suspense and the mother of the Golden Age mystery. What happened to you during those 11 days and where did you go?

Who are some of the authors you’d love to meet?

Paint it Noir

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Paint it Noir

For this installment of the Book Battle, I’ve decided to choose a book by an author I love but one that I haven’t read yet. I chose Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister. Ever since I read The Big Sleep in a detective fiction literature class in college I’ve been in love with this man’s writing style. Chandler and Hammett changed the way people viewed detective fiction. No longer was it the Golden Age mysteries of Agatha Christie with their definite solutions and easy situational comedy, the mysteries of Hammett and Chandler dealt with the seedier side of life. The side where not everything is easily solved and put back into it’s own little box. Chandler and Hammet invented noir. They changed the way people talked and changed the perception of the detective into a hard boiled man also somewhat down on his luck.

Raymond Chandler has such a unique writing style that makes it instantly recognizable, much like Hemingway. His style is minimal but still able to produce such a clear image in your mind as you read. As Ross McDonald said, he writes like a slumming angel. He’s not afraid to get into the gritty underbelly of what makes society tick.

This novel in particular focuses on Hollywood and movie magic. What fame can transform a person into.

Stay tuned for the full review of what I’m sure will be another fantastic Marlowe mystery!

To Say Nothing of the Dog

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To Say Nothing of the Dog

Have you ever wondered what a penwiper is? If you have the answer lies in this delightful novel. Set in 2057, time traveling Oxford dons are looking for lost relics from Coventry Cathedral for their boss Lady Schrapnell. It’s her mission to rebuild the cathedral because visiting the cathedral changed her great great great grandmother’s life. Sent to jumble sale after jumble sale, Ned Henry’s mission is to find out what happened to the bishop’s bird stump, the one relic Lady Schrapnell must have. His last drop send Ned into the hospital for sever time lag. Because of his time lag, Ned is sent to Victorian England in order to recover and complete a mission that might disrupt the time space continuum.

Verity Kindle is the reason Ned is sent back to Victorian England because she has done what no other time traveler has managed to do, she’s brought back something from the past. A cat to be precise. This cat has caused an incongruity that must be fixed or it could alter history forever.

This incongruity sends Ned and Verity on a delightful mission to right the wrongs done by bringing the cat into the future. They have to make sure certain couples meet, break up other couples, and get Lady Schrapnell’s great great great grandmother to Coventry Cathedral. But each time they try to fix the incongruity they make things even worse. That is until they find out that maybe the incongruity is fixing itself and their just part of the process.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is a love letter to literature. There are so many homages in this novel it kept me on my toes trying to keep up. From all things Victoriana, including Tennyson, hilarious Oxford dons, and spiritualism, to references to the Golden Age of mystery writer’s, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. This novel has it all. Some of the best moments are when Ned and Verity are discussing the incongruity like Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They are trying to hard to piece the pieces together they fail to see the bigger picture. Willis took these beloved literary characters and gave them more human counterparts. I feel like Ned and Verity solve mysteries like any of us would. Looking at everything like it’s a clue and focusing on the minutiae trying to be Hercule Poirot.

With elements of science fiction, romance, and mystery, this novel can’t go wrong. It’s a great introduction into science fiction for those readers like myself who haven’t really read much in the genre before. You just kind of get your toes wet into the genre with the elements of time travel.

Rating: 5/5 Read it and try not to laugh at her sly look on literature.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

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Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I am so excited and humbled to say I’ve been nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. A big thank you to Erika from Erika the Bibliophile for the nomination. My whole blogging experience so far has been a whirlwind of excitement. I am so happy that people are not only reading my reviews but enjoying them. Thank you everyone for your support and lovely literary comments.

Without further ado, the rules of the award:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.

  2. Put the Award logo on your blog.

  3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.

  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.

  5. Nominate ten blogs.

Questions Answered:

1. Did you have a book that meant a lot to you as a child? 

The book that immediately comes to mind is Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. This is a novel, told entirely in prose poetry, about a young girl’s struggles growing up in the Dust Bowl. This novel really hit home for me because my grandmother grew up in the Dust Bowl in Texas. The Dust Bowl was the reason her family moved to California looking for more opportunities. Reading the novel was like listening to my grandmother and great grandmother tell me stories about dust storms and the thick coating of dust on everything in the house that you just couldn’t get rid of.

2. Is there any author of book that you collect and will always welcome multiple editions of the same title? 

Since about the age of 6 I’ve been collecting Nancy Drew novels. It was my lifelong goal, at 8, to possess all the Nancy Drew novels ever writing, including spin offs. I currently have all of the yellow hard backed books and a few of the Nancy Drew files but would always love more. Especially original Nancy Drews from the 1930s.

3. Say that you find yourself judging a book by its cover (not that we ever do that!); what sort of covers do you go for? Are there any that are an absolute turn off? 

I guess I would say I really like the more minimalist covers. The covers that have one or two images that somehow relate and connect to the novel but you have to read the book in order to find out what that connection is. For example, the cover of Ghost Story, at the least the edition I have, is just the title and then next to that is a picture of a wasp pin/broach. I love that the image is simple yet powerful, and if you read the novel, you will know that it’s an extremely important image. The covers I like the least are the ones where there is just too much going on and then the novel cover is a bit cheesy.

4. If you could pick any imaginary animal to bring home to mom with an earnest, “Can we keep him??”, what animal would it be? 

dog dragon

A dragon all the way! I would love to ride the dragon around the world and see the sights. Like the kid in Neverending Story rides his dog dragon thing.

5. Is there any book to movie adaptation that you simply refuse to watch? No way, no how, you’re not even giving them the opportunity to mess it up?

Not that I can think of. I honestly love watching how screenwriter’s adapt a novel from page to screen and to see the novels come to life in the movie theater.

6. What is the most unusual book you’ve ever read? (Plot, writing style, chapter layout, etc?)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I love that the novel is like reading a silent motion picture from the 1920s. The illustrations interspersed with the text are absolutely breathtaking.

7. Is there any book or series that you’ve read that is so totally outside of your normal genre, but you loved it and would recommend it to others as a “take a risk!” type of book?

This novel isn’t exactly outside of my reading genre but it is a novel that almost no one I know has read or even heard of. My take a risk recommendation would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Many know her as the author of the short story The Lottery and the classic ghost story The Haunting of Hill House, but in my personal opinion We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of her best works. It’s so terrifying and human all at the same time.

8. Do you have any bookish collections, or anything you covet and hope to someday collect? Candles, artwork, bookcases?

I don’t really have anything I collect that’s super bookish. I can always use another bookcase but that’s more a practical need than anything else. I do have some bookish book bags that I wouldn’t mind owning more of. I recently got a lithograph bag of Pride and Prejudice and also have a bag of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. Both of which are amazingly beautiful.

9. What book has been on your TBR pile the longest, but you just can’t convince yourself to pick it up?

I would say either Elizabeth Kostova’s novel The Swan Thieves or Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina have been on my TBR pile the longest. The first because I’m so afraid this novel will not be nearly as good as The Historian, which I loved so much, and the latter because every time I pick it up I just feel like I’m not in the right frame of mind. I don’t know about you guys, but when I read certain books I have to be in the right mood for them. Every time I pick up Anna Karenina I just feel like if I’m not in the perfect frame of mind I won’t do the book justice. But both will make an appearance on my Book Battle to get them off my TBR pile!

10. You get a $500 gift card for all things bookish-do you run to your nearest bookstore and spend like a fiend? Or do you create pro/con lists (a la Rory Gilmore) to make sure you get just the right and perfect and wonderful bookish things? Or are you eyeing a particularly expensive bookcase somewhere? 

If I’m going to be honest, I am the person that would immediately take that gift card, go to a used bookstore, and search the bargain dollar books for finds so that my money will stretch the farthest and I can buy the most books, which I have no room for. I would probably get so caught up in buying the bargain books I would forget about the books I originally came to buy.

I’m not sure who has and who hasn’t received this award in the past, if you haven’t and are not on the list please feel free to join in, and if you have received the award and groan at the mere sight of the questions feel free to disregard the nomination. I’m also going to use the same questions as are on here. I think it would be fun to see what other people have to say about each question to get a good literary type conversation going.

Nominations: 

Lynn @ Lynn’s Book Blog

The Bookish God

Kimberly @ Come Hither Books 

Coffee n’ Notes

Stephanie @ Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Away in Neverland

Book Snacks 

Books and Cleverness 

Story and Somnomancy 

Jewish Books Are Awesome

Have an amazing day. Happy reading!